Visual Litigation

“Society has become increasingly dependent upon computers in business and in our personal lives. With each technological advancement, the practice of law becomes more sophisticated and, commensurate with this progress, the legal system must adapt. Courts are facing the need to shed any technophobia and become more willing to embrace the advances that have the ability to enhance the efficacy of the legal system.”

       Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Serge, 2006 Pa. Lexis 561 (2006).


This part of the Visual Persuasion website invites you to explore the world of visual litigation and litigation services from a number of different perspectives. You may investigate different types of visuals or you may begin your inquiry by looking at visuals that have been used in particular types of law cases. The examples you will find here are the creations of skilled practitioners in the field. They betoken a sea change in the way lawyers communicate in our pervasively visual, digital age.

What’s the Story?

The most effective litigators are powerful storytellers. Good attorneys manage to educate and entertain their audience. Many rely on classic storytelling techniques and genres. They know who to put on stage when, and for what purpose. They know which character advances the plot in a particular direction, and where that plot is leading. If it is a whodunnit, the clues must add up and the mystery must be solved in the end. If it is a heroic quest, after the requisite battle with evil the hero must return home with the grail.

Everybody recognizes these stories. We know how they go and how they come out. We also know the deep themes that are at work in them, and the characters who give those themes life: David versus Goliath; the bumbling cop; the evil step-mother who betrays her daughter’s trust; the free-spirited entrepreneur who invents something new and must then do battle with freeloaders and thieves. These themes, of course, are not always immediately apparent in the cases lawyers take on. The challenge of litigation is to bring often nondescript testimony and evidence to life, to dramatize the message and convey it with clarity, coherence, and credibility.

Today, our most popular narratives are visual. Effective litigators must emulate visual storytelling techniques and visual narrative genres. Symbols and graphics inside the courtroom must operate within the acceptable bandwith of popular culture. Visual persuasion must be attuned to ordinary expectations, the common sense knowledge that jurors and others carry around with them wherever they go. If a fact fits within a familiar scenario, if a character matches a particular type, if a story goes according to expectation, the outcome will be persuasive and memorable.

Related Links

Peter Tillers on “picture thinking” and inferential thinking in response to graphics.
(Info on upcoming conference: graphic and visual representation)

Edward Tufte (info design)

Edward Tufte (homepage) [check out Tufte’s “Beautiful Evidence” (forthcoming)]



This site is sponsored by New York Law School’s Visual Persuasion Project (Professor Richard K. Sherwin, founder & director, Curriculum Vitae,   ).